Friday, January 9, 2009

And Soon the Darkness

Two films into the HROHFYSSBYD and already certain biases of mine are shining through. This film, like Amuck before it, is a European film from the 70s. Two films can be a coincidence, of course, but the two I’m throwing in next week are from the same decade and continent, which may make this overall list a tad circumspect for anybody that prefers their horror films to be made in the good ol’ US of A, preferably sometime after they’ve already been born. However, I say nuts to that. You will all be much happier watching these films than some awful Hollywood remake, you have my word on it.

This one especially is pretty damned great, as we follow the adventures of two British girls, Jane and Cathy Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice), that decide to go on holiday bicycling through the French countryside. After a minor fight, the two separate for a time, and never meet up again. After a couple hours, Jane grows worried for her friend’s safety, and goes back to find her, only to discover that she has disappeared. She heads back to town for help, but finds that her essentially high school level command of the French language is not overly conducive to obtaining help from the locals. What help she does find, indeed, seems mostly circumspect, as her would-be allies are a woman with a worryingly angry husband that doesn't want her around, a mysterious man in sunglasses that alternates between oozing charm and ridiculously suspicious behavior, and the local gendarme, who appears somewhat eager to help but who is described as “tres trouble”. She also learns from two other locals that another foreign girl on vacation – also a blonde like Cathy – was viciously murdered on the same road that she had left Cathy on. As she tries to find her friend, if she still has a friend left to find, the day is slowly fading away into night…

This is definitely one of the tenser thrillers I’ve seen, aided both by quality direction from Robert Fuest (who would go on to helm The Abominable Dr. Phibes a year later) and from a suitably creepy, unsettling score. The language barrier really ratchets up the tension of the film, as she seems to have nowhere to turn for aid in a thoroughly alien land (made all the worse by how almost every English speaker she encounters seems like a potential killer themselves). It’s a shame this one isn’t more famous, because it easily ranks with some of the major thrillers of the 70s – The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, When a Stranger Calls, etc. As a nice bonus, unlike Amuck, this one is easily availably on DVD, so go check it out already.

Rating: *** ½

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